Many left town hall wanting more from Tonko

February 20, 2017 11:45 PM

SCHENECTADY – It was a standing room only crowd for Congressman Paul Tonko’s “Congress on your Corner” event at Schenectady County Community College. But it was a decidedly different crowd in the 20th Congressional District than what has been playing out elsewhere around the country at similar events.

"There was a lot of preaching to the choir there but he was saying the right things,” said Robert Hedeen of Clifton Park, who attended with his wife Victoria. He had never been to one of these events before. "I felt that Tonko was giving the answers that shows that he's on the side of normal people…I wanted to come and show the Congressman that we support him. I wanted to do my part that there would be a big crowd and he would get the idea that there were people behind him.”

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Hedeen sat in the second overflow room where the Facebook live broadcast was projected on a screen. Questions were taken from each spot and more than half of those asking questions mentioned President Trump by name and most referred to his policies.

There were a lot of "first-timers" to this otherwise routine event that plays out in most Congressional districts across the country. Signs raised supported the same causes and positions the five-term Congressman backs and for the most part "it is pep-rallyish and we're past that already,” said Susan Jarrett of Niskayuna. “We need action.”

“But I expected more,” said Jarrett. “Even the questions that were asked, he didn't answer them."

"He's not quite ready to provide answers and I think maybe things will consolidate in the next few months hopefully,” said Helen Harrison of Niskayuna.

Around the Carl B. Taylor Auditorium, there were the ever-present "agree" signs popping up plus others and the topics for questions ran from Russia to healthcare to the EPA.

"I'm not surprised because we know factually that there is a great groundswell against the current administration in the White House,” said John Good of Schenectady, who had never come to one of these events. "I'm encouraged that there's a great grassroots opposition to the Trump administration.

"Unfortunately due to the demographics and the numbers the Democrats are in a tough position both in terms of the Senate and the House of Representatives and possibly, soon the Supreme Court but I imagine the grassroots movement has to count for something."

Dave Smalley from the Town of Glen said while he is a supporter of Tonko, "I was somewhat depressed by the generic, everybody was asking questions and I could have stayed home and got an answer to…I'm just distressed that we didn't get the nitty-gritty so-to-speak of what he's exposed to every day. What he knows and we don't."

And the brother and sister combination of Mohamed Mohamed-Ali, 23, a student at SCCC and Hajir Mohamed-Ali, 21, a student at UAlbany studying political science walked out encouraged after the meeting.

"He's showing us that he truly supports us, the people, and that he truly supports anything that we say and that he'll hear us out and whatever he can do he will do,” said Hajir.

“I think because it's very important and talks about the new President and what's going on in our society and hopefully he can help out our community,” said Mohamed.

Most of the 20th Congressional District voted for President Trump, that included parts of Montgomery, Rensselaer and Saratoga counties. Only Schenectady, Albany, Columbia and Ulster counties in this part of the state were for Hillary Clinton. Columbia and Ulster are not in the 20th C.D.


WNYT Staff

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